The CPJ urged the Nigerian government to rein in the security officials.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has asked Nigerian authorities to immediately release two journalists who have been detained since Monday, and allow a third journalist who has fled into hiding to return to his home and work freely.
CPJ made the demand Wednesday in statement sent to media houses.
In pre-dawn raids on Monday, about 40 armed security agents arrested Aliyu Saleh, a reporter with Al-Mizan, a weekly Hausa-language newspaper; and Musa Muhammad Awwal, the paper’s editor, at their homes in Rigasa in Kaduna. The agents also confiscated the journalists’ phones and money and briefly detained the journalists’ wives, witnesses said.
Yusuf Idris, the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, told CPJ that Saleh and Awwal were being held at the headquarters of the State Security Service in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Mr. Idris said the reason for the arrest was still unclear.
Marilyn Ogar, spokesman for the security service, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s inquiries.
Later on Monday, security agents raided the home of Al-Mizan Editor-in-Chief, Ibrahim Musa, who was not on the premises at the time. Mr. Musa has since fled into hiding, news reports said.
Mr. Musa told the daily Punch that he believed the journalists were being targeted for the lead story in the latest edition of Al-Mizan called “Atrocities of JTF in Potiskum.” The story said the Joint Task Force, JTF, the special unit combating the insurgency of militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, had allegedly abducted 84 individuals in Yobe.
The whereabouts of the individuals were still unknown, news reports said. Mr. Musa also said the story included pictures of the individuals, who were still missing, and accounts from their family members.
In October, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the JTF of abusive detention practices.
“We condemn the arrests of Aliyu Saleh and Musa Muhammad Awwal, along with the raid at Ibrahim Musa’s home, which appear designed to silence coverage of alleged abuses by Nigeria’s security agencies,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator, Mohamed Keita, from New York.
Speaking further, Mr. Keita said “We demand the immediate release of these journalists and a halt to the security agencies’ efforts to intimidate the press. National leaders must make it clear that security agents are not above the law.”
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